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LENT: Awe

Anti-Gang Groups-Bailout

One dictionary definition of the word awe is “wonder, but with more reverence.”  If you have an hour or so this week, please consider watching this interview with Greg Boyle. Boyle is a Jesuit priest, founder of Homeboy Industries, author of Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion and works with gang members in East Los Angeles.  It would take several listens to glean all the insight from this interview, which ranges from inspirational stories about individuals he has met to the church’s role in the world and potential contribution at this stage in history.  He was particularly moving when he likened the serious struggles of some of the young people he knows to the early Christian community described in the Acts of the Apostles. The link was awe.

We often hear this familiar story of the early church as a sweet and inspiring description of a Utopian moment from long ago. Boyle studied it as an actual measure of the health of any community – that they “take care of each other,” “no one goes hungry,” etc.  When he came upon the phrase, “and awe came upon everyone,” a real light went on. What if, he asked, the measure of our compassion lies not in our service to those on the margins but in our willingness to see ourselves in kinship? How can we seek a compassion that can stand in awe at what people have to carry rather than stand in judgment at how they carry it?

We have known this feeling on occasion, and it is as good as it is rare.  The defensive, overly-stressed version of ourselves wants everyone to please just behave themselves and for the world to shape up in general. We’re quick to judge what is wrong on all sides of any situation. But there are moments of grace – unwarranted and unexpected – when the curtain is drawn and we see things a little more truly as they are, or at least might be in a Divine Mother’s eyes.  Then we feel it: kinship – the recognition that we are actually brothers and sisters, and  awe at the resilience in others instead of recoil from the brokenness.

-Kelli

{image: from Kevin & Linds}

SCRIPTURE STUDY: Luke 4:1-13, Temptations to power

temptations-apWe began our Lenten Scripture study last Wednesday with the gospel reading for yesterday, the First Sunday of Lent: Luke 4:1-13, the temptation narrative.

We started by first noting the context of the passage in Luke’s gospel, particularly paying attention to the action which occurs just prior—the baptism of Jesus at the Jordan, followed by this revelation: “… heaven was opened and the holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved son; with you I am well pleased’” (3:22). We noted that this scene sets up the temptation narrative; that before the baptism and the voice from heaven—with the exception of the infancy narrative in Luke—Jesus is seemingly a normal, ordinary Jewish man from Nazareth. But upon being baptized, Jesus experiences something extraordinary, something which propels him not back home but further into the desert/wilderness, and this time, on his own. The “voice from heaven” initiates an abrupt and serious change in Jesus’ life, and begs the question: What does this mean to be the “beloved son”?

So we pick up the story in 4:1 and the overtones of the Exodus story are apparent almost immediately: Jesus is led, like the Israelites following their liberation from Egypt, into the desert, for forty days (with the forty days for Jesus equaling the forty years the Israelites wandered in the desert/wilderness). In the Exodus story, the Israelites, just recently freed from slavery in Egypt, will begin to complain, longing for a return to Egypt and the oppression of the Pharaoh where at least they had food to fill their bellies. Such complaints and grumbling will eventually lead to idolatry, marking the Israelites 40 years as a time of struggle and repeated detours into faithlessness. The question arises for us: Will Jesus, the chosen person (beloved son) fare any better during the time of trial than God’s chosen people did during the Exodus? What does it mean to be the beloved son of God?

It is upon the seemingly subtle word “If” in verse 3 that the purpose of the passage first turns. Following the voice from heaven proclaiming him “the beloved son”, Jesus must have found himself in the position of trying to make sense of what that meant for him and for his life from this point forward. We might even see the solitary sojourn into the desert as a type of “vision quest,” a searching for answers and an attempt to integrate some extraordinary new knowledge or experience that means never being the same again. So just as Jesus is wrestling with what it means that he has been named the beloved son of God, along comes the Tempter teasing that very question with a quick and easy way to confirm the experience: Do a magic trick. Turn the stone into bread. Jesus, having not eaten for 40 days and certainly famished, might have seen such a suggestion as no big deal—it doesn’t hurt anyone, there is no maliciousness in it, and he is in need of food. Why not take care of two of his most pressing needs at one time: feed his hunger and see if there is any power behind this revelation that he has received about himself. Jesus’ refusal to do just this should give us a clue as to what being a “child of God” is not about: it is not about using one’s power to fulfill one’s own needs, putting God at the service of one’s self.

But it is the second temptation that is really striking. In verse 5-6 the devil shows Jesus all of the world’s kingdoms and offers them to Jesus, with the boast that power and glory of all of these kingdoms has been “handed over to me, and I may give it to whomever I wish.” The only requirement is that Jesus worship the devil, which of course, he refuses in verse 8.

But it is that boast of the devil—that it is not God but rather the devil who doles out power to those in charge of running the great kingdoms and empires of the world, and which goes seemingly unchallenged by Jesus as if it is of course a matter of simple fact—which should stop us in our tracks. The author of Luke’s gospel states here very clearly that the kind of power exercised by the kingdoms of the world is not God-given power but rather demonic power, power in opposition to God. Luke doesn’t single out specific kinds of kingdoms, but seems to be including all kingdoms—all large-scale organized political, military, religious and economic power no matter their differences or even if they are in opposition to one another—as deriving their power from that which is opposed to God. Such a statement flies in the face of any claim by any empire—be it Babylonian or Roman or American—to being blessed and sanctioned by God. To all of these, Jesus—and purportedly any who would follow him—says no, equating the exercise of such power with the worship and service of that which is not God.

Following the third and final temptation, which Jesus also declines, the devil departs, apparently awaiting another opportunity. Jesus, after being chosen by God, has demonstrated his faithfulness in contrast to the repeated stumblings and failings of God’s chosen people the Israelites following the Exodus. Jesus has revealed too what it means to be “God’s beloved”—to resist the lure of using power to satisfy one’s self; to not mistake the organized power exercised by “kingdoms” of this time (or any time) as being blessed and sanctioned by God, to be properly suspicious of invitations to participate in that power (even if one believes that one could do good), since the source of that power is not God; and to be wary of religions, as in the final temptation, for it has no special exemption from being manipulated to serve the will of those opposed to God (indeed, even the devil can quote Scripture to suit his purposes, see verses 10-11).

This coming Wednesday, February 20th, at 7:30pm, we’ll be looking at Luke 9:28-36. Feel free to come and join us.

HOUSE NEWS: Welcome back! Lenten practices and the passing of a GCW friend

Lent 2012Click here to see an entire list of what is happening this week at the Gainesville Catholic Worker.

WELCOME BACK: We hope that many of you were able to enjoy Spring Break last week and we look forward to seeing you back at the GCW helping out this week as we return to our regular schedule. All of our regular projects are up and running and if you’re looking for an opportunity to help out, we’d love to have you. You can see everything that is happening this week by clicking on the link above. Send us an email if you know something you’d like to help with and we’ll make sure you’re on the schedule.

GIVING THANKS FOR CONNIE FITZGERALD: Yesterday, we learned that Connie Fitzgerald, a supporter of the GCW and friend and former colleague of both Kelli and John, passed away. Johnny (the younger), his friend Zach and I were scheduled to go over and do some yardwork at Connie’s this week when we got an email on Friday asking us and others to hold off because of some developments with Connie’s illness. Connie was an early regular at the Breakfast Brigade, long ago when we were baking bread and boiling eggs at Kelli’s house (before we got the Green House at 218), and last year, she helped us to plant and inaugurate the parking lot garden next to our house. She was an extraordinarily kind and giving soul and we’re so grateful for her life and witness. We invite you to remember her, her family and all of our her friends in your prayers.

LENTEN PRACTICES: During this time of Lent, as we prepare and approach Easter, many folks like to take up different practices or disciplines to rededicate themselves to a life of spirituality, compassion, forgiveness and love. If you’re still looking for possible Lenten opportunities, we want to invite you to consider making the GCW part of your Lenten practice. Consider these possibilities:

  • Deepen your spirituality by joining us at 11:15am on Mondays or 6:45am on Fridays for 30 minutes of silent meditation. We begin with a short reflection, practice 20 minutes of centering prayer, and then briefly share any thoughts or comments we might have.
  • Study scriptures which help orient us during the Lenten season. We’ve been looking at Matthew’s gospel this semester, but we’ll segue into some particularly Lenten passages between now and Easter. Join us on Mondays at noon for an hour of scripture study.
  • Almsgiving is a special Lenten tradition meant to reorient us to the needs of others. Volunteer at the Breakfast Brigade or Dorothy’s Cafe, Art for All or the Coffee Shop and give a little of your time and attention to those whom our society often ignores, marginalizes or oppresses.
  • We are always in need of extra financial help to keep everything going here at the GCW. As part of your Lenten almsgiving, if you’re in a position to do so, consider making a financial gift to help support the work of the GCW.

SCHEDULE CHANGE FOR MICRO-FARM WORKDAY: Since our monthly micro-farm workday fell during Spring Break, we rescheduled it for Saturday, March 24. We hope to have a small group gathered to help at the micro-farm between 9am and 3pm (any amount of time you can give would be great!). Lunch will be provided!

VISITS GALORE! I don’t know that we have ever had so many visitors at the house as we have this semester. Tamra’s parents and grandparents both visited recently and a number of friends have passed through. But the visits really ratchet up over the next few weeks! We’ll have a full house regularly as we have a number of friends and family members joining us to help out. The visits start with Vicki’s mom this week (make sure to tell her how awesome Vicki is!), former GCW housemate Kim’s dad will be here next week (ditto on relaying Kim’s awesomeness), Kelli’s son Ben will be home for Spring Break starting later this week with college friend Shizuko in tow, our grandson Riley all next week, and 2 cousins from Texas, Clare and Audrey, spending their Spring Break with us next week too. We’re looking forward to having the extra help but we also really hope that many of our visitors will get to meet all of you, our GCW regulars, and hear a little bit about the incredible things each of you are doing with your lives! So next time you’re at the house, make sure to introduce yourself if you see someone you don’t recognize!

Hope to see you this week!

LENT: Week two, Monday – Shake off this sadness

winged seed pods - red maple

Shake off this sadness, and recover your spirit;
sluggish you will never see the wheel of fate
that brushes your heel as it turns going by,
the man who wants to live is the man in whom life
is abundant.

Now you are only giving food to that final pain
which is slowly winding you in the nets of death,
but to live is to work, and the only thing
which lasts
is the work; start then, turn to the work.

Throw yourself like seed as you walk, and into your
own field,
don’t turn your face for that would be to turn it
to death,
and do not let the past weigh down your motion.

Leave what’s alive in the furrow, what’s dead
in yourself,
for life does not move in the same way as a group
of clouds;
from your work you will be able one day to
gather yourself.

- Miquel de Unamunotranslated by Robert Bly

 

Lent: Week Two, Sunday – God’s Grandeur


THE WORLD is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

Lent: Week One, Saturday – Inspiring a life of immersion

Lent: First week, Friday – Life will break you

Kanapaha crabapple

“Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.”

- Louise Erdrich, The Painted Drum

 

Lent: First Week, Thursday – Post-traumatic growth syndrome

With crises, some people dig deeper into their entrenched identities and hide in the pup tent of their old beliefs. Many people simply numb themselves with television or self-medicate with alcohol and drugs. Some people blame all their pain on others and never examine their own role in creating problems. Other sufferers shrink their worlds into something small and manageable but actually quite false. People with eating disorders are an example of this narrowing of scope. The questions of the day boil down to simply “Have I gained weight?”

For all people, regardless of the crisis, the cure is always growth . . . As Parker Palmer said in an interview, “To move closer to God is to move closer to everything, both joy and sorrow, light and darkness.” We may experience post-traumatic stress reactions, but we are beginning a process of post-traumatic growth syndrome. Darkness and loss signal to us more clearly than anything else that it is time to expand our point of view.

- Mary Pipher

Lent: First Week, Wednesday – Like you

Like you I
love love, life, the sweet smell
of things, the sky-
blue landscape of January days.

And my blood boils up
and I laugh through eyes
that have known the buds of tears.
I believe the world is beautiful
and that poetry, like bread, is for everyone.

And that my veins don’t end in me
but in the unanimous blood
of those who struggle for life,
love,
little things,
landscape and bread,
the poetry of everyone.

in the original Spanish

Como Tú

Por Roque Dalton

Yo como tú
amo el amor,
la vida,
el dulce encanto de las cosas
el paisaje celeste de los días de enero.

También mi sangre bulle
y río por los ojos
que han conocido el brote de las lágrimas.
Creo que el mundo es bello,
que la poesía es como el pan,
de todos.

Y que mis venas no terminan en mí,
sino en la sangre unánime
de los que luchan por la vida,
el amor,
las cosas,
el paisaje y el pan,
la poesía de todos.

- Roque Dalton (Translated by Jack Hirschman)

 

Lent: First Week, Tuesday – Regret

Kanapaha Arboretum

Regret is a short, evocative, and achingly beautiful word; an elegy to lost possibilities even in its brief annunciation. It is also a rarity and almost never heard except where the speaker insists they have none, that they are brave and forward-looking and could not possibly imagine their life in any other way that the way that it is. To admit regret is to understand that we are fallible, that there are powers beyond us; to admit regret is to lose control not only of a difficult past but of the very story we tell about our present; to admit sincere and abiding regret is one of our greatest but unspoken contemporary sins.

The rarity of honest regret may be due to our contemporary emphasis on the youthful perspective; it may be that a true, useful regret is not a possibility or a province of youth, that it takes maturity to experience the depths of the emotion in ways that do not overwhelm and debilitate us but put us into a proper relationship with the future. Except for brief senses of having hurt another, having taken what is not ours, youth is not ready for the rich current of abiding regret that runs through and can even embolden a mature human life.

Sincere regret may be a faculty for paying attention to the future, for sensing a new tide where we missed a previous one, for experiencing timelessness with a grandchild where we neglected a boy of our own. To regret fully is to appreciate how high the stakes are in even an average human life; fully experienced, it turns our eyes, attentive and alert, to a future possibility lived better than our past.

- David Whyte

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